The lessons of Krull

Krull, the 1983 action/sci-fi spectacular, is a film that can be watched simply as an unparalleled piece of entertainment, yes, but the attuned viewer will pick up some terrific lessons as well, guidelines to help him or her live a happy, full life. Krull is a film that, like The Bible and the books of Hermann Hesse, was written with ideas in mind, very powerful ideas that the author not only wanted to share, but maybe on some level felt compelled to. Here are a couple of my favorite Krull lessons. What are yours?

  • Good warriors do not make good husbands — Yes, really: this saying, which is by now a well worn, widely trusted maxim of western culture, actually began with Krull. Lysette, the princess, is told by her cranky yet obviously quite wise father that… well, you know what he tells her. And of course he’s right � Prince Colwyn, about whom the wise king warns his daughter, is a very solid warrior and, we have to assume, turns out to be a really terrible husband. Of course exactly how he’s bad is beyond the scope of the film, which ends shortly after the two young lovers are re-united, but certain very obvious hints are dropped that leave little doubt in a viewer’s mind what kind of husband Colwyn will be: at one point, after camping in the swamp with his motley band of crusaders, Colwyn refuses to help pack up camp, asserting that his time is better spent practicing his sword moves, honing his bow & arrow moves, practicing his wrestling, or, at worst, shining his sword, bow, and arrows; another time, during the long perilous trek to find the Dark Mountain and his princess, Colwyn totally spaces the birthday of a fellow crusader because he’s too focused on how their tiny squad of scrappers will overcome the massive Slayer army and its leader, The Beast; and finally on one telling occasion Colwyn is asked to watch his brother-in-arms’s three and five year-old kids for 10 minutes while he [the brother-in-arms] spends some rare quiet alone time with his [Colwyn’s] wife [just kidding, it’s the brother-in-arms’s wife], but Colwyn gets distracted by some maps he wants to look at, gets all caught up in speculating aloud to himself on the possible location of the Dark Mountain, and totally misses the fact that the kids are sinking in a nearby pool (pit? patch?) of quicksand, even though they’re screaming for help, and so the kids die, or possibly go to live in the wonderful world below the quicksand, as Colwyn tries to explain to his brother-in-arms, but as the brother-in-arms tearfully argues, that seems like a real longshot.
  • The future will be a tasteful blend of cool new stuff and really old stuff — I think Krull is right on with this. Is the future going to be like Minority Report or Bladerunner? With essentially all the same stuff we have today but just developed and improved at a pretty consistent rate? So there are still cars, but they’re faster and safer and sleeker; and there are still houses, but they are all glass and steel and have robot butlers; and there is still Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford, but just slightly younger? No, I think Krull‘s vision is far more interesting, far more revolutionary. The future will have a couple of totally new things, like a really sleek, metallic main gate on the castle, and bad guys that fly around through space in mountains, mountains that can also teleport. But in the future we’ll have moved away from some of the stuff that we currently think of as useful: it’ll be back to horses and bye-bye to cars, hello again to Robin Hood-esque clothing made of leather and rope-belts, and lots of city planning based on a castle in the middle and houses spiralling out from the castle walls. Jesters will probably come back into vogue. We’ll return to hamfisted plays full of exaggerated archetypes instead of complex tableaux of human drama like Krull.
  • If you used to be the Spider Woman’s lover, she will pull certain strings to protect you from the huge murderous spider — A valuable thing to know. Let’s say, for example, that you learn the Spider Woman has a wonderful type of candy in her room, and you want to get some of this candy, to taste it, yet you know that the Spider Woman’s room lies at the center of a massive web that is the hunting grounds for a huge, huge murderous spider. How will you get at the candy? If you used to know the Spider Woman — I mean, like, know her — then you should go to the edge of the web and call out to her some telling bit of carnal knowledge to identify yourself (“You used to purr like a monkey when I slid a cherry popsicle between your glasses and your eyebrows!”). Once she realizes who it is, she’ll turn over an hourglass with roughly 2 minutes of sand in it. The huge spider knows not to attack you while that sand is running � hell, he’s a spider, not a monster! So you’ll be able to safely get across and root around in that bowl of candy like a hog in a truffle patch (pile? plot?). When you’re ready to go the hourglass trick won’t really work, so you’ll need to beam out of there or something. Maybe just shoot the spider. Something.
  • After defeating your main enemy, get the hell out of his lair fast, because it was his life force that was keeping the roof from collapsing and the walls from crumbling — This is something that only fantasy movies seem to be onto, and yet it’s something that D.E.A. and F.B.I. agents and various military personnel probably need to be told. The fact is, if you are going to kill a person on their property, you need to be ready to run like crazy the moment that person takes his last breath, because everything is going to start coming apart at the seams as soon as the bad guy’s life-force isn’t holding his house’s bricks and beams in place. Notice what happens to the Dark Mountain when Colwyn kills the Beast: it not only crumbles to pieces, but those pieces are sucked up into space. So yeah, you killed the main bad guy; now you can just sit there and gloat . . . in space, idiot!